Copper prices fell on Friday, pressured by China’s plan to sell reserves, and a firm dollar buoyed by the prospect of US interest rate hikes.
Copper for delivery in July fell 0.8% from Thursday’s settlement price, touching $4.14 per pound ($9,115 per tonne) midday Friday on the Comex market in New York.
Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices
The most traded July copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange dropped to 66,960 yuan ($10,394) a tonne, its lowest since April 15, before paring some losses to close at 67,260 yuan a tonne, still down 2.6%.
The dollar soared as investors have scrambled to price in a sooner-than-expected ending to extraordinary US monetary stimulus in the days after a surprise shift in tone from the Federal Reserve.
A stronger dollar makes greenback-priced metals more expensive and less appealing to holders of other currencies.
“Metals were suffering from equity markets that started to fall, and tapering and potential rises in interest rates unnerving investors,” Malcolm Freeman, a director at UK broker Kingdom Futures told Reuters.
“It felt like the investment community was reducing its exposure.”
Prices had already been under pressure after China announced a plan on Wednesday to sell state reserves of copper, aluminum and zinc in an effort to curb a strong price rally in commodities.
The last time China sold its metal reserves was in 2010 when markets were also rebounding from a global crisis.
The administration, which does not publish its reserve volumes, is estimated by Citigroup to hold 2 million tonnes of copper, 800,000 tonnes of aluminum, and 350,000 tonnes of zinc.
That is equivalent to one-sixth — or two months’ worth — of China’s annual refined copper consumption, based on estimates for 2020 from state-backed research house Antaike, but only around 2% of its aluminum usage and 5.2% of its annual zinc consumption.
“The trigger for prices has been the Fed and the Chinese saying they will release copper, ali and zinc into the market,” independent consultant Robin Bhar told Reuters.
“The Fed indicated it may have to hike rates sooner than they had originally anticipated and that’s dealt a blow to gold and to the metals as well.”
“The copper market is going to have to live with the threat of Chinese state sales for the foreseeable future,” said Reuters columnist Andy Home.
Mining stocks kept falling on Friday, with BHP and Freeport-McMoRan down 1.5%. Rio Tinto Plc lost at least 1.2%.
(With files from Reuters)